While the winter athletic season is not officially over (hockey and basketball teams await NEPSAC playoff bids, Nordic skiers compete at the NEPSAC Championship at the Proctor Ski Area Saturday, and USSA/FIS skiers continue to race until late March), we celebrated the collective work of coaches, students, and the athletic department during Friday's assembly. Hosting and traveling to over 300 different games/races/competitions, running daily practices, coordinating buses for fifteen different teams, and sharing scores and highlights from various programs requires considerable effort by Proctor's athletic department and coaching staff.
Gun violence. I would rather not write about this topic. I would rather write about listening to the singers who performed in the chapel last Sunday, or Corby talking about his art, or The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (performed tonight and tomorrow night). I’d rather write about ski jumping or basketball, women’s hockey or Nordic races. I’d rather update on the construction in the Field House or the latest heroics on Maintenance. I’d rather sing the praises of the artists who dominated the art show up at the Ava Gallery in Lebanon. But my weekly Notes can’t always be whipped cream and bonbons.
Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. Student leadership sold Candy-Grams during lunch today and will place them in mailboxes tomorrow morning. We anticipate the normal adolescent flirting to tick up just a bit on this day of love, and there will probably be at least a few deliveries of flowers by secret admirers before the end of the day tomorrow. This post may have been triggered by Valentine's Day, but the focus is far from the Hallmark holiday before us. Instead, I want to dig into an aspect of “love” that I believe every school should nurture with more intentionality. So bear with me as we take a circuitous route through Valentine’s Day, hugs, love, academics, and institutional evolution.
In mid-October (oh to feel that autumn sunshine and crisp breeze right now!), I shared thoughts on the annual ninth grade hike to the Proctor Cabin in a blog titled, Shaping and Sustaining Culture (read it here if you’re so inclined), in which I reflected on the intentionality required of crafting the culture of a school like Proctor. Specifically, the blog explored the challenge facing our first year students: “Do I passively embrace the culture that exists here at Proctor or am I willing to actively shape it?”
In a recent conversation with Ethney McMahon P'16, '20, our videographer, she mentioned the following that struck me. "I am lucky enough to have a job that allows me to float into classrooms and onto athletic fields at any time. It’s a free pass to observe this community, up close, in its continual making. I see teachers and students in their element as much as I see them out of their element."
Whenever we look at our school calendar in August, we see Bonus Weekend just three and a half weeks into the new year, and often scoff at the notion we would need a respite that soon after Winter Break. And then the realities of January hit us, and we always enter this weekend incredibly thankful for a few days off. The challenge this time of year is to step back, in the midst of our busy schedules, and appreciate the incredible amount of hard work that goes into daily life at Proctor. We must pause and allow ourselves to recharge.
There are the upsides. We couldn’t do half of what we do today without technology. It’s made us smarter, more collaborative, and the benefits are clear even if it’s just writing an essay on Google docs or incorporating video into a bio lab report, or skittering through an Excel spreadsheet. But it’s also arriving with unprecedented force, delivered at ever higher pressurized streams. It’s like fracking, that practice of drilling into shale deposits and injecting super compressed fluids - “slick water” with “proppants” - to drive out oil or natural gas trapped in the rock. With technology fracking, the aps, news, entertainment, and social media injected into the bedrock of communities is consequential. It raises the question: what’s being damaged?
I was sitting today...processing January...yes processing January. When you have -18 degrees one day, 52 degrees and 2" of rain with flooding a week later, challenges with discipline, challenges with relationships, and challenges in class, yet simultaneously seeing students produce beautiful writing, art, music, comedy, (even a yo-yo master), and then celebrating the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. while tackling the challenges we still face as a nation when it comes to freedom and equity, you must process January.